Context is good. So while I wouldn't agree with Sir Stuart Rose's claim that he'll be going out on a high, Marks & Spencer's anticipated profits of £620m-£630m for the year end, on sales of £9bn, suggest Marc Bolland is not exactly joining a disaster zone.
Not only is M&S in considerably better shape than the benighted Morrisons was when Bolland arrived on his white charger in the autumn of 2006 (profits had fallen by 80%, from £322m to £61.5m, in the year to 29 January 2006), it's likely to make more money than Sainsbury's this year (analyst forecasts are around £598m), and on a far higher multiple.
On the other hand, I think Bolland is going to have his work cut out because while M&S is not exactly broke, it needs much more than an MOT, as we explain in our cover story. Again context is good. When Bolland joined Morrisons, it was bigger, but it was far, far simpler a UK-based supermarket, selling groceries. And his real achievement was recognising its limitations and turning them into a strength. By contrast, the complexity of M&S especially relative to its size is enormous. And the food business is called Simply! As if!
Taming such an unwieldy beast will take not only guts, but brilliance. And if he meets all the targets he's been set for the next five years, he will deserve every penny of the £36m pay package he's reportedly been offered. Yes, this is greater than the salaries of all the M&S store managers put together.
But it's a lot lower than the £90m Reckitt Benckiser's Bart Becht has earned for delivering profits of £1.9bn, though just for context Becht has given £100m of this away to charitable causes.
And talking of charities, when Bolland went on gardening leave two months ago, he took the opportunity to spend some time helping Unicef in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. There are minefields; and minefields. Disasters; and disasters.
Gel-ignite: 20 challenges for Marc Bolland at M&S (10 April 2010)